So you were injured due to no fault of your own in an automobile accident — now how do you recover for your wages, medical expenses and harms? In North Carolina you cannot directly sue the at fault driver’s insurance company. Nor do we have no fault insurance such as that found in New York, instead, we only allow a recovery against the at fault driver and owner and only if the person injured did not contribute to his/her own injury. If you are injured in an automobile accident in North Carolina you must file suit against the person who injured you and then their insurance company will defend them and pay the judgment up to the amount of policy limits. If they do not have insurance or do not have enough insurance another set of questions must be asked. Every driver in North Carolina is required to carry the minimum limits coverage of liability and uninsured motorist coverage to drive their vehicle. The minimum limits currently are $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per vehicle. That means that no one person injured may recover more than $30,000.00 and regardless of the number of injured people the entire recovery is capped at $60,000.00. Does that mean that if there are serious injuries you cannot recover more than $30,000.00 from the defendant? No! If the defendant only has minimum limits you can obtain a judgment for more than $30,000.00 and recover the remainder against his/her personal property. In North Carolina, it is extremely difficult, although our firm has done it numerous times, to recover the personal property of a defendant. In addition to liability coverage, you may be able to recover umbrella coverage. Umbrella coverage is a type of universal coverage policy that protects a person in the case of any at fault liability. An umbrella policy is often found when pursuing a former insurance professional due to the comprehensive protection in the policy. If the driver of the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle are not under the same policy, often you can pursue the insurance for both. Often a child driving their parents vehicle is on the same policy (much like a spouse driving another spouse’s vehicle) and you cannot have a separate recovery against the driver and owner of the vehicle. However, if the owner and driver have separate insurance policies and both are not owners of the vehicle you may have a recovery against both policies. If a person was working at the time of the automobile crash, you may have a direct recovery against the employer as well as the employee. This is often found with commercial drivers who cause automobile collisions. Therefore, you must always know if the defendant was working at the time of the automobile collision. If a defendant has no insurance at all, you may recover as to your own uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage is required coverage that will pay if the defendant is uninsured. You may recover up to the limit of UM coverage purchased. If the defendant has the minimum limits you can still recover above that coverage if you have purchased Under Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage. This is non-mandatory coverage that allows you to recover above the amount of insurance maintained by the defendant up to the limit you have purchased. In NC you can purchase up to a million dollars in UIM coverage. The short lesson from this blog is protect yourself by purchasing an umbrella policy and by purchasing as much UIM coverage as possible.
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